Tag Archives: #Tuskegee Airman

TICO Airshow 2014~Part 2

2 Apr

A Slice of Life

Bill Lites

Bill Lites


The weather was perfect, and we all enjoyed a great Airshow together. The Airmen were a little disappointed that there were no P- 39s, P-40s, or P-47s taking part, as they were some of the first fighter planes they had flown during the war. Then later, I met one of the young men (18 or 19) who will soon be going to college, aided by one of the many Tuskegee Airmen Scholarships, to study engineering or another aviation related field, and maybe even become a pilot. He reminded me so much of what the original Tuskegee Airmen must have looked like in the early days of WWII, when all they wanted, was to do their part towards helping protect America and other freedom-loving countries from foreign aggression.



Overall, it was a great experience that I will treasure for years to come. Now as my “Two down and one to go” painting with its Tuskegee Airmen autographs hangs on my bedroom wall, it has more meaning than it ever did before. All I have to do is look at it and the memories will take me back to the day when I was in the presence of a group of special men who loved their country enough to put their lives on the line for us. Some of the airmen’s feats included; 15,000 combat sorties flown, 260 enemy aircraft destroyed, 150 Flying Crosses and Legions of Merit earned, along with more than 700 Air Medals and clusters earned by many of the 1,000 black pilots flying combat missions during WWII.

This included the Distinguished Unit Citation, which wasawarded to the 99th Fighter Squadron in July 1945 for its performance in combat over Sicily.



However, the war was not over for the Tuskegee Airmen when they returned home to America. They had to face the many challenges of segregation that continued to rage in their own country. Then, after 60 years, in 2007, approximately 300 Tuskegee Airmen and their families were collectively awarded the Congressional Gold Medal by President George W. Bush for their, bravery, outstanding performance and dedicated service to our country during WWII.





Thank you Tuskegee Airmen for your service to our country.

2014 TICO Airshow~Part 1

26 Mar

A Slice of Life

Bill Lites



Several years ago, my friend Terry gave me a nice 16”x20” print of a Red Tailed P-51Mustang shooting down a German Me-109 somewhere over the Western Front during WWII. If you look close, you’ll see the painting depicts the smoking German airplane with the pilot stepping out on the wing, getting ready to bail out over the side, while the American pilot watches from a distance.  The print hangs on my bedroom wall, surrounded by many other airplane pictures, where I can enjoy them any time I want a thrill.


“Two down and one to go” By W. S. Phillips


I had known about the Tuskegee Airmen from my study of WWII aviation history, and the movie “Red Tails” and was always impressed with the many challenges those men had to endure to become fighter pilots during the war.  I had even visited the Tuskegee Airmen Museum in Tuskegee, AL two years ago during a trip to visit my friend Terry. However, I had never imagined that I would ever have the honor to meeting any of them in person.       3  

 As part of my retirement “fun”, I volunteer as a tour guide, one day a week at the Valiant Air Command Warbird Museum here in Titusville, Florida. This weekend was the museum’s 2014 annual Airshow, and the theme for the show was to “Honoring the Tuskegee Airman.” The VAC museum had invited all of the surviving Tuskegee Airmen to be their guests at the three-day event, to share with the airshow attendees their many WWII experiences.  Well, this was my chance, and I didn’t hesitate for a minute.

I did the research on my print, and discovered it was painted by W. S. Phillips, and actually depicted Lt. Clarence D. “Lucky” Lester in his P-51 (which he named “Miss Pelt”) shooting down his second of three German aircraft on July 18, 1944.  Reportedly, the German Luftwaffe gave these airmen the nickname, “Schwarze Vogelmenschen,” or “Black Birdmen.”


As many of the Tuskegee Airman as could manage were there, and what a thrill it was to be able to shake hands and talk with several real war heroes!  I took my “Two down and one to go” print and ask each of them to autograph it for me.  A couple of them remembered “Lucky” Lester, and told me how they recognized the different squadron planes, by the color of the trim tabs on the rudder and elevators. There was the 99th, the 100th, the 301st and the 302nd Fighter Squadrons. They each had their own specific color and/or numerical markings.




—–To Be Continued—–


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